Microsoft and Sony Up Their Game for the Holiday Season

It’s hard to overstate the importance of the holiday selling season for the video game industry. November and December are when game companies make the vast majority of their money, which means they pull out the stops to make sure you want to buy their products.

Microsoft and Sony have both made big moves recently, and have more goodies on the way in the coming weeks. Let’s take a look at what both companies are doing to become the console you put on your Christmas list (or spend your hard-earned cash on) this season.

Source: Xbox

Xbox One

What does Microsoft have up its sleeve to sell you an Xbox One? Quite a bit, it turns out. First up is a $50 holiday discount in the U.S. From November 2 to January 3, you’ll be able to buy a standard Xbox One for $350, or an Xbox One with Kinect for $450. These prices even include the game bundles, so the upcoming Xbox One with Assassin’s Creed Unity and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag will only set you back $350. Ditto the Sunset Overdrive special edition console.

On the software side, Microsoft has some big games coming exclusively to Xbox One before the holidays. First up is Sunset Overdrive, the latest from Insomniac Games, a company that has long been allied exclusively with Sony, making games like the Ratchet & Clank and the Resistance series. Sunset Overdrive is a new IP that plays like a mix between a third-person shooter and a skateboarding game. Essentially, you glide and fling yourself all over the map while blasting zombies to bits. It’s been getting very positive reviews so far.

But Microsoft’s not-so-secret weapon is Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a game that bundles the four numbered installments of the classic first-person shooter franchise into a single package. The first two games in the bundle, which were made for the original Xbox, are fully remastered, so they’ll look at home next to the still-great-looking third and fourth installments. Adding even more value to the package, the compilation also includes every multiplayer map ever released for all four games. Even though many fans have already played these games, I suspect this lavish collection will sell a good number of Xbox One consoles to gamers who have been holding off.

Also, Microsoft has recently turned the console into a killer media machine. The Xbox One’s media player app lets you play or view video or audio off a USB device like a thumb drive or an external hard drive. The app is versatile, supporting dozens of file formats from MP3s and MP4s to MKVs and animated GIFs.

Source: Sony

PlayStation 4

To answer Microsoft, Sony has been making some moves of its own. On the exclusive games front, the only big game owners can look forward to playing this year is the creative platformer LittleBigPlanet 3 when it comes out on November 18. Of course, the PS4 will also get all the big cross-platform games, like Assassin’s Creed Unity, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Far Cry 4, but since those games are also coming to Xbox One, that point is a wash.

As far as features unique to the PS4, the big thing Sony has brewing is its 2.0 system update, which brings with it a few requested enhancements like interface customization, USB music playback, video editing, and YouTube integration.

The most interesting feature, however, is Share Play. Billed as a “virtual couch,” Share Play lets you play your games with a friend online even if that friend doesn’t have the games. You can simply let a friend stream the game through your PS4, or you can have him or her join just as if he or she were sitting next to you on your couch. A few catches: The person sharing the game has to have a PlayStation Plus membership, and the gameplay sessions are limited to an hour at a time. You can watch a video of the new features in action here and see how Share Play works here.

That’s about everything Sony has announced for this holiday season. It’s not as impressive a list as Microsoft’s, but here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be. Sony is ahead in the console war by a long shot. According to VGChartz, for every Xbox One Microsoft has sold, Sony has sold about two PS4s.

This is going to be fun

Sony may be winning, but Microsoft is making some smart moves to make the Xbox One as appealing as possible. It’s a better media machine, and it has a stronger lineup of exclusive titles coming out this holiday season. There’s no way Microsoft will catch up with Sony in the console race over the next couple of months, but gamers have more reason now than ever before to choose an Xbox One. Things are finally getting interesting.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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